Finley: Rank-and-file must break standoff

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

If a break comes in the three-week old partial government shutdown, it will have to be rank-and-file members of Congress who force it.

The Capitol is seen on the 24th day of a partial government shutdown after a weekend snowstorm, Jan. 14, 2019.

Their leaders show no sign of budging from the all-or-nothing stances they've struck since Day One, demanding nothing less than full surrender from the opposition. 

Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer believe public sentiment eventually will force President Donald Trump to blink first and abandon his demand for funds for a border wall. For them, it's a cold political calculation. As long as Trump and Republicans are getting the blame, they're OK keeping the doors shut.  

I don't see Trump caving. He's staked his tough guy reputation on extracting from Democrats the money to build the wall he promised his voters. The president reads polls through a unique lens; no matter what the numbers say, he finds in them validation that the people love him. 

And he knows if he tosses in his cards now, he'll never win another fight with Congress.

Some in Congress recognize this has become a death match and are speaking up for a compromise.

This week, Michigan Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, a conservative and Trump supporter, said the president should accept less than the $5.6 billion he's demanding, perhaps even half of what he wants, to get a deal done.

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, said on my radio show that "compromise is not a dirty word" and said members are urging their leaders to negotiate.

Across the country, other senators and representatives are speaking out, urging their leaders to find a middle ground. Even the hard right House Freedom Caucus sent a letter urging Congress to stay in session through its scheduled break next week to "reach a compromise."

As Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said, "there's a deal to be had." And everyone knows what it is. Give Trump his border wall money, and extract in return passage of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act (DACA) to enshrine in law Obama-era policies protecting the so-called Dreamers.

Everybody gets something. Everybody gives something. That's how compromise works.

Pelosi says she can't possibly bend because adding additional barriers to a border that already has hundreds of miles of them would be "immoral," as if morality ever moved politics.

What's immoral is that 420,000 government workers are on the job without getting paid while the paychecks of Pelosi and her colleagues keep on coming. (BTW: Walberg and Elissa Slotkin, D-Brighton, are among a handful of Congress members who are foregoing their pay during the shutdown.)

Whether or not the wall is needed or is fiscally prudent are no longer relevant questions. In another week, the shutdown will have cost the economy more than the president has requested from Congress. 

The wall is neither so expensive nor so offensive an endeavor to break the government over. 

What must prevail now is practical politics. This strategy of mutually assured destruction must give way to a deal that allows both sides to walk away with their tail feathers spread.

Those Congress members who have the courage to speak up now for the cause of compromise won't be forgotten by voters.

Catch “The Nolan Finley Show” weekdays 7-9 a.m. on 910 AM Superstation.